More and more of us are trying to adopt healthier lifestyles. We are choosing more fresh fruits and vegetables as opposed to processed foods. We are finding foods lower in fat and sodium. However, when it comes to cooking oils, for what are we suppose to look?

All cooking oils contain both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with some containing more of one than the other. Monounsaturated fats are the good fats. They help to lower the harmful LDL cholesterol and can also raise the levels of the good HDL cholesterol. Glucose levels have even been lowered by instituting a diet including higher monounsaturated fats, which is good news for diabetics. Other studies also indicate that oils high in monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, can help to lower blood pressure. (Do not try to cut out all polyunsaturated fats from your diet, though. They also can lower LDL levels. The problem is that they also lower HDL levels, which is why you should choose oils higher in monounsaturated fats.)

With all of the different types of cooking oils on the market, it might seem rather difficult to know which oil to choose. You know you want to choose an oil high in monounsaturated fats and low in polyunsaturated, but which oils are the best? Following is a guide to help you make healthier choices:

Oils with 70% of more monounsaturated fats and less than 20% polyunsaturated:
These are the oils that should head your list when you go to the grocery store. Hazelnut is the best (78% mono and 10% poly); however, it can be rather expensive and may not be practical for regular use. That’s okay. Olive oil has 74% mono and only 8% poly. (I live on extra virgin olive oil, by the way.) Two other oils that fit into this category are almond (70% mono, 17% poly) and avocado (70% mono, 16% poly).

Oils with 40%-60% monounsaturated fats but watch the percentage of polyunsaturated fats:
Canola: 56% mono, 33% poly
Peanut: 46% mono, 32% poly
Sesame: 40% mono, 42% poly

There are some other oils that people often use, which are not listed above — and for good reason. Do you like to use walnut oil for salad dressings? Be judicious, because it contains only 23% monounsaturated fat and 63% polyunsaturated fats. Grapeseed oil is another oil that is recommended in some recipes. You might want to figure out a substitute, since it has just 16% monounsaturated fats and 70% polyunsaturated fats. Do you like safflower oil? I recommend that you eliminate it from your diet. It has a mere 12% monounsaturated fats and a whopping 75% polyunsaturated fats.

Also, realize that all oils contain saturated fats, as well; therefore, it is really not wise to overdo it on any oils. Aromatic oils; e.g., sesame, chili, walnut, can be used sparingly for flavor, taking the place of salt. Just use cooking oils wisely. For example, I like the flavor of peanut oil and the way it tends to heat faster and hotter. Because I do not eat many fried foods — mostly my husband’s hot wings during football season — I do not feel too guilty using it only periodically. When I need oil for anything else, I use extra virgin olive oil. (After using only these oils for so long, I really cannot stand to eat much fast food. I can tell a real difference in the oils used, and they often will make me sick. Makes choosing healthier foods much easier.) Try changing your cooking oil. Your body will appreciate the change.

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